MEET HONORARY MEMBERS OF POLISH WOMEN'S ALLIANCE
WHO MADE DIFFERENCE

 

Maria Sklodowska Curie

Maria Sklodowska Curie's exhaustive investigative work and brilliant research brought to science new tools for advanced work. She opened the door to the mystery of atomic energy. 

She was a scientist, teacher, author, wife, mother and honorary member of PWAA.  She is best known for her work done on radioactivity, which led to the discovery of polonium and radium.  In 1906 she succeeded her husband, Pierre Curie, as professor of general physics at the University of Paris – the first time such an honor was accorded to a woman.  While fulfilling the obligations of this high position she continued her research.  After being awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics with her husband, Madame Curie was later awarded, in her own right, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911. 

Although she did not live in Poland after 1891, her loyalty to the land of her birth and affection for it were deep and constant.  Her learning and ability were always at Poland’s service.  The radium which was offered her by the women of the United States when she visited this country in 1921, which Polish Women’s Alliance was part of, was magnanimously turned over by her to the Radium Institute of Warsaw.   It was eminently appropriate that Madame Curie was elected a member of the Academy of Science of Poland and was appointed honorary professor at the University of Warsaw. 
On the main wall of the Madame Sklodowska Curie Room at

PWAA’s headquarters hangs a portrait of this eminent scientist painted by the Chicago artist, Ladislaus Krawiec; Madame Curie’s daughter, Eve, at a special ceremony attended by the consular generals of France and Poland in 1941, unveiled the portrait.


Helena Paderewska

Helena Paderewska carried emergency aid to the wounded and the invalids and founded the Polish White Cross.

She was an individual who when faced with tragic and desperate times in the course of history was able to draw upon an inner strength and make superhuman sacrifices to help her fellow human beings. 

During the period of the First World War and immediately afterwards, Poles suffered great misery and want.  When it was very hard indeed to keep up one’s spirit there appeared this woman of extraordinary ability – Helena Paderewska.  She organized aid programs and lifted morale, and was given the name “Great Soul.” 

She carried emergency aid to the wounded and the invalids; to displaced persons and the homeless; to the aged and the orphans on both sides of the Atlantic, and founded the Polish White Cross.

So great were Paderewska’s humanitarian efforts that Pope Benedict XV conferred upon her the golden cross – “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” – an honor very rarely bestowed upon women, but richly deserved by this woman of honor and dignity and also an honorary member of PWAA.  The small museum at national headquarters houses some personal objects of Mrs. Paderewska, and you are welcomed to visit and learn more about her.

Maria Konopnicka

Maria Konopnicka's poem, “Rota,” is a national song of Poland.

She was born in Poland in 1842, but her life was shaped by the events which happened a decade before in 1831. The failure of the tragic Polish uprising of that year lingered in many a Polish household and it certainly shaped her formative years.  This love of country and belief in the greatness of Poland was fostered by her first teacher - her father.  He also cultivated in her an honest and sincere attachment and understanding of the peasant folk, which lasted a lifetime.

Konopnicka came in contact, quite early in her life, with the farm and farm worker of her country.  She learned that he was poor, that he was dependent upon the fertility or infertility of the soil, upon rain, wind, and the sun.  She also knew that someday he might even have to leave his small tract of land in order to survive.  When she became a writer these themes were woven into her stories and poetry. She created written pictures of her people and her country and with these literary works she always conveyed her faith in the future of Poland.
For this faithful service to her country, Konopnicka received an uncommon, posthumous reward, when Poland became free again her poem, “Rota,” which is an oath of undying fidelity to a country and to the ideals of liberty became a national song of Poland.  Polish Women’s Alliance made her an honorary member and at one time published, both in Polish and English, a book which gave an overview of her life and works.


Maria Rodziewicz, another Polish writer, was also shaped by her country’s struggles.  She was born in Grodno in 1863, the year of another tragic Polish uprising.  After the failure of the insurrection, her parents who had participated in it were arrested and sent to Siberia.   A czarist amnesty in 1871 allowed her parents to return, but they were not allowed to return to their own city or residence so the family moved to Warsaw, and eventually lived on her uncle’s estate in Polesie.

It was while living in Polesie and struggling to keep her family’s estate going that Rodziewicz learned there was strength in work and perseverance.  Her motto became “work and persevere” and it rang true in her literary works almost like a military command. 

Rodziewicz is best known for her masterpiece “Dewajtis,” which is representative of the border populations of Poland and their economic struggles and denationalization.  She was considered a modern writer of democratic ideas who espoused hard work as a way to national strength.

In her literary works she also wove the thread of today with the tradition of the past.  Rodziewicz strongly believed that “culture does not thrive on sand and it is not formed by one generation – it is the result of many previous generations, and therefore, we must not forget what we owe to those who were before us.”

 


 

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